Dscoop (Digital Solutions Cooperative) is an independent global community of graphic arts business owners and technical professionals who use HP Indigo, Scitex or HP web press equipment. Dscoop was founded in 2005 and after establishing a strong presence in North America it is broadening its reach with the second conference for the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa). More than 700 digital print professionals from 36 different countries gathered at the second annual Dscoop EMEA conference. Among them were 400 print service providers, a substantial increase from 200 in the year before. The event titled “Print Grand Prix” ran November 6th to 8th at the Rome Marriott Park Hotel, Italy.
Apart from the high turnout, there were a couple of highlights making this event noteworthy.
Dscoop University, announced at the Dscoop US event in May, made its first steps with a live streaming of seven education sessions from Dscoop Rome to its global members. The session recordings, as well as interviews with speakers, will be available on the Dscoop website as an additional member benefit. Initially the university will focus on pulling together an online repository of information from a variety of sources – not just Dscoop – such as webinars, research analysis and white papers, grouped by disciplines such as management, production and sales. Dscoop hinted that in the future the Dscoop University has grander ambitions and could ultimately offer qualifications and structured training delivered via webinars, face-to-face events, online resources, and exams that could result in formal qualifications. Dscoop University plans to launch its online delivery platform around March 2014, in time for Dscoop9 in Orlando, Florida. Dscoop is partnering with the HP Graphics Solutions Business to develop and deliver this program.
At the EMEA event Dscoop also announced that the Dscoop Print Directory, launched earlier this year, is now available in nine languages to accommodate the growing need for global services. The nine languages are English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. The directory has a member only part, where Dscoop members can locate other members in other geographic areas with complementary services to provide digital print capabilities. In a public part marketers and designers can search the directory listing to locate a worldwide network of print service providers.
Another very interesting announcement for HP Indigo users was the Customer Excellence Program, which aims at improving maintenance and uptime of HP Indigo presses. HP did a global analysis on maintenance practices and uptime and distilled the results into best practices in form of operator maintenance and make-ready check-lists for the different press lines. Additionally an HP engineer will spend a week on a customer site to observe and later tailor the program to the needs of a user. Follow-up calls make sure the plans are deployed satisfactorily. Most importantly the program aims at changing the mindset of operators and managers on the importance of structured, preventive maintenance and from a “react on fault” to a “how can I help to make the machine work better.” An HP Indigo user reported dramatic increases in uptime as a result of the program. Especially attractive is that the program is free for Indigo users.
There were a couple of product announcements as well. The Solutions Showcase hosted more than 35 partners from around the globe. These partners exhibited in relatively small booths in a hotel ballroom. Little equipment was on site except for a separate tent where an HP Indigo 10000 and 7600 Digital Press and several pieces of finishing equipment were shown live. The Indigo 10000 was shown for the first time with seven colours, printing extended gamut applications – an option that will become available for 10000 users now.
Of special interest was the live demonstration of the Direct2Finish concept which allows HP Indigo users to pass on automatically generated JDF information to finishing devices downstream. This would speed up the finishing make-ready and reduce waste in change-over and human error considerably. Theoretically an MIS or other system at the prepress stage can provide the information as well, but in reality this requires quite some custom development and is very rarely done. HP provides an out-of-the-box solution with the next iteration of the Production Pro Color Server. The so-called Ultimate Bindery Module will extract the necessary JDF information based on prepress and imposition information and translate it into the set-up information needed by the finishing devices, considering their capabilities and limitations. So far JDF-enabled finishing devices from three vendors (Horizon, Polar-Mohr, and Duplo) are supported but HP plans to expand the range quickly. The first Horizon SmartStacker has just been installed at an HP Indigo 10000 user site, after the preview at drupa 2012, and is beta-testing the Direct2Finish architecture already. The cutter/stacker is still near-line, but is planned to go in-line, as the finishing architecture support in-line and near-line devices. Direct2Finish will be generally available in Q1 2014 as an option with the next Color Server version and pricing is not defined yet.
There was more news on finishing devices. As an in-line option with the HP Indigo 7600 C.P. Bourg showed the Booklet Maker ExPress. The ExPress allows in-line booklet making on an Indigo for the first time as it can crease, trim, stitch and fold for high-quality booklets. Set-up is fully automated and the device runs at full speed of the HP Indigo 7600.
Duplo showed the ULTRA 300Ai flood coating system which can go off-line and in-line with a HP Indigo 7000 Series. It was already shown in the US in February, but for the first time in Europe and will commence shipping in two weeks. Especially the in-line solution can be attractive for high-quality products by applying high-quality gloss, satin, or matte coating on a wide variety of applications. An additional benefit is that the coater can be switched between UV and aqueous coating in 10 to 15 minutes. With the ULTRA 1000ai Duplo plans a B2 solution for the Indigo 10000 as well.
Imaging Solutions of Switzerland is a manufacturer of finishing solutions for photo merchandise, such as systems for lay-flat photo books. The company announced the fastCut&Sort- a solution that cuts and sorts photo prints from a printed roll for consumers still ordering simple photo prints. This can turn any roll-fed high-quality color printer into a photo-lab substitute.
The printing industry in Europe is suffering from a challenging economy and especially at this point service providers need support and ideas for new business. Overall the mix of sessions and informal contacts was very well received by attendees. The event gives users a platform for sharing experience and practices, even among competitors and helps attendees to stay ahead of the curve. A fact underscored by a presentation showing that Dscoop members tend to do better than the industry average. The third annual Dscoop EMEA conference will be held in June 2014.